International papermaking group teaches how to use art to work through trauma

Richland, Wash. - The process of making paper may not seem very exciting. At least, that's what Drew Matott thought when he first took a class on it in college.

"At first I was like, 'This is kind of silly. I was thinking about little old ladies knitting in the basement," Drew said.

Over time, this hobby turned to a passion.

That passion led him to create the Peace Paper Project, an international program that uses traditional papermaking as a form of art therapy, social engagement, and community activism.

The process begins with turning pieces of cut-up clothing into pulp using water and a Hollander beater.

"As soon as I learned I could make paper with my own clothing, I went home and started pulling my old clothing out of the closet and cutting it up into pieces," Drew said.

Those pieces are then turned into pulped fiber. This process is not about using old materials to create new ones, but rather, using those materials to tell a story.

Drew first found his own meaning behind papermaking as a way to remember his father.

"As a family, we printed some of his poems and his photographs and his letters onto the paper that we made from his clothing," Drew said.

Just last year, he repeated this process.

"I had a brother who was killed as a result of a fire at my home. I went back for the funeral and to be with my family, and I took a bunch of his clothing and some of the photographs and remains from the fire and his bandages, and I brought it back to my studio," Drew said.

Peace Paper has also worked with refugees who created something out of the clothes they wore while fleeing their home countries. Veterans have used uniforms they wore during their time fighting for our country.

"I think its been really powerful for each individual that's gone through these programs," Drew said.

This program is not just for students to participate in. The Peace Paper Project will continue to hold workshops free and open to the public tomorrow from 8 in the morning to 5 at the WSU Tri Cities Student Union Building. Feel free to bring any materials to use for a project.

For more information on the Peace Paper Project, you can check out their website here.

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